Kids, do you prefer taking French, Spanish or … Java?

A number of U.S. States such as Florida, Kentucky and Texas are already offering high school students to take computer coding classes instead of language classes in order to fulfil their language credit requirements. Washington and Georgia will be pronouncing themselves on the matter in the next few weeks.

An investment for the future or the death of polyglots?

On the pro side, one can claim that proposing such classes from high school onwards will allow Americans to bring themselves forwards in the expanding IT world - claims 1.4 billion jobs will require the mastering of U.S.

computing science by 2020. Moreover, it is claimed that the abilities acquired by coding, such as effective multitasking, increased perception, and improved memory- are the same as those developed via learning foreign languages.

On the cons side, one can object this argument by reminding that computer coding, as important as it may be, is simply not a foreign language. On top of that, the United States is monolingual enough as it is: only 18% of Americans speak a second language, as opposed to 53% of Europeans according to a study led by the Secretary of State in 2010.

Indeed, Americans are not famous for their polyglotism - and it would be a shame to shy away the ones who wish to learn.

Although English is the most spoken language in the business world, Mandarin is proving itself extremely useful, with 845 million speakers worldwide. French counts 220 million speakers and is an official language in 27 different countries. Arabic comes up just behind, with 220 million speakers and an official language in 23 countries.

Of course, other languages such as Spanish are also central to an international career.

How about … both?

Ironically enough, both language and information technology classes were stressed upon by the 1958 National Defense Act. In the Cold War context, the government wanted its citizens to become multilingual engineers that would be able to protect the US' interests internationally.

Today, demand for information technology competencies is sky high, but the usefulness of languages has not disappeared: it seems that investing in both would be a real promise for American citizens' future.

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